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06. Rural Third Spaces & Well-being: Work in Transition after the Pandemic

Tuesday, June 27, 2023
9:00 - 10:30


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Prof. Dr. Aleid Brouwer
University of Groningen

Female-only coworking places: community feeling & well-being


Whereas in the past, offices were required to accommodate employees with carrying out business activities, the use of mobile technology and changing attitudes towards work made it possible to work anywhere, at any time. On the other hand, The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated teleworking and new ways of working and therefore seeking alternative solutions for traditional office settings. This impact is, however, different in gender; some studies have shown that working from home has imposed disproportionate burdens on female entrepreneurship and women workers in general, considering also the work/life balance, well-being and community.
In this transition and growing demand for flexible working, the phenomenon of coworking has been widely applied and discussed over the past decade. A shift towards working environment preferences led to a new and sparsely researched concept of female-oriented and female-only coworking spaces.
This explorative and qualitative study is aimed to contribute to further knowledge on the use of female-only coworking locations. By means of 17 semi-structured interviews with both providers and users, the determinants of users' choice of female-only coworking spaces are sought. Results show that whereas rental costs are expected to be most important in the choice to work at a co-working space, motives were more often related to social interaction, atmosphere décor and location in the female-only co-working spaces. However, only for a small part of the women, the female-only aspect is the main reason to work where they work.

Dr. Federica Rossi
Polytechnic University of Milan

Every cloud has a silver lining: coworking spaces rise in peripheral areas


In the following months after the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, we have witnessed to a rescheduling of working methods. Indeed, the need of maintaining “social distance” has decreased the commuting flows to many large cities and has increased the remote working arrangements. Remote workers, whose majority are knowledge workers, mainly worked at home or second home, generating in their municipalities a potential demand for third workplaces, such as coworking spaces. As many studies suggested, the home is often an unsuitable place to work, because it is too small, noisy, etc. Using TIM’s mobile phone data (TIM Big Data – Data Visual Insight) as a proxy for the mobility during the pandemic period (2020), the Participation, Labour and Unemployment Survey (PLUS, 2021), and Italiancoworking data (2021), the paper aims to analyze the Lombardy case study in Northern Italy, and in particular to investigate the rise of new coworking spaces, driven by the potential demand of remote workers. A focus is made on peripheral and rural municipalities (based on Inner Areas – SNAI classification): have these territories been able to attract remote workers through the creation of new coworking spaces? Indeed, some peripheral and rural areas have promoted policy measures aimed at attracting remote workers, contributing to the development of the local ecosystem.
Dr. Jane Deville
Research Fellow
University of Lincoln

Work from pub: The potential for co-working spaces in rural English pubs to improve business and community resilience


Between 2000 and 2017 the number of pubs in the UK declined by 26% and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this, with six pubs demolished or converted each week. For rural areas the loss of pubs has been felt particularly strongly given the important role they play in rural hospitality and gastronomy, community cohesion and wellbeing. At the same time the pandemic has prompted a shift towards home and remote-working and the demand for co-working spaces has increased. Offering co-working spaces in rural pubs may help to reduce their vulnerability and strengthen community-orientated networks and the sense of identity within rural communities.

This research uses face-to-face visits to pubs to better understand the barriers and enablers of providing co-working spaces to remote and home-workers. By talking to pub landlords, co-workers and the wider community is explores the validity of co-working as an opportunity to help rural pubs innovate and diversify their income and considers the implications for rural community resilience and meeting the needs of post-pandemic ways of working.

The project focuses on the potential of pub co-working from a managerial, as well as a customer and community perspective to assess how pub ownership models (managed, tenanted, freehold and community owned) influence the motivation of managers to innovate and introduce new initiatives such as co-working space. The findings and lessons learned are distilled into a ‘Rural Co-working Pub Toolkit‘ which provides practical guidance to the pub industry, rural pub managers and those working in rural community development.
Dimitrios Manoukas
Phd Candidate
Panteion University

Sustainable Employment Policies and Collaborative Workspaces across Europe: a Meta-evaluation


The proposed paper will critically analyze employment policies and their impact designed or implemented by collaborative workspaces such as hubs and coworking spaces. These policies focus on so-called (former or current) young NEETS (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) and other young beneficiaries to find their way to employment.
Contemporary youth cultures demonstrate both a strong investment in the uniqueness of the local scene and the articulation of transnational popular cultural flows available within digital social media spaces. As spatiality is a critical dimension of youth, so-called 'youth studies' can make critical interventions in the way space, place, and globalization are theorized and empirically explored (Farrugia & Wood, 2017). Hence, the concept of regional sensitivity and a place-based approach will play a central role in the analysis (Avdikos & Merkel, 2020). Emphasis will be placed on such policies that affect less developed, peripheral, and tourist areas (e.g. islands, areas in energy transition, and de-carbonization). The impact of such policies includes residents of a specific geographical area (e.g, a neighborhood) whose daily lives are intertwined.
The analysis will be based on exploratory fieldwork and data collected from case studies located in European countries such as Ireland, Italy, and Greece.

Avdikos, V., & Merkel, J. (2019; 2020;). Supporting open, shared and collaborative workspaces and hubs: Recent transformations and policy implications. Urban Research & Practice, 13 (3), 1-10.

Farrugia, D., & Wood, BE (2017). Youth and Spatiality: Towards Interdisciplinarity in Youth Studies. In Young (Vol. 25, Issue 3, pp. 209–218). SAGE Publications Inc.
Dr Martijn Smit
Assistant Professor
Utrecht University

An end to Coworking Spaces?


Traditionally – and young as they are, we can already speak of a strong tradition – coworking spaces (CWS) are an urban phenomenon with strong roots in creative labour and in self-employment. In recent years, however, they spread to rural environments, and the pandemic boosted this development enormously. However, rural CWS are attractive primarily because they extend the Hägerstrandian space-time prism of their users (Thielmann, 2022); knowledge sharing is then not the key outcome of such spaces, even though operators may claim this. We illustrate this with the case of Schleswig-Holstein.
The broadening out of both rural and urban CWS to a wider user base also implies more and more non-creative industries are now seeing their employees use such spaces. We predict a backlash, since most knowledge sharing in CWS will leak out of the firm, and any day an employee spends there replaces a day sharing knowledge in the office. We support this prediction with a simple theoretical model.

Session host

Mina Akhavan
Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow
TU Delft

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Aleid Brouwer
University of Groningen

Ilaria Mariotti
Polytechnic University of Milan

Veronique Schutjens
Utrecht University

Martijn Smit
Assistant Professor
Utrecht University



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl